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Sometimes all I want in a movie is a little bit of escapism and Tim Burton.  The new Alice in Wonderland movie does just that, it allowed me to escape into Wonderland with some of the kookiest characters, played by some of the best actors of our time.  The retelling takes place several years after Alice’s first trip to Wonderland, this time she is nineteen and believes that it is all just a crazy dream that she can wake up from if someone would only pinch her really hard.  I like the idea of having an older Alice re-entering Wonderland at a time in her life when she is starting to question so many things.  I loved the character of the Cheshire Cat (voiced by the very awesome Stephen Fry), but it was the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) that just broke my heart.  I also thought that  Helena Bonham Carter was great as the Red Queen (with a slight lisp to match her huge head) and the fact that Crispin Glover was in it, well that was the icing on the cake.  I could go on and on about all the other actors (I heart Alan Rickman), but you get the picture.  Alice Purists have been ranting about the film, but it gave me exactly what I wanted – a wonderful escape on a Saturday afternoon.  4 out of 5 monkeys

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A Serious Man (2009)

I love the Cohen Brothers and the majority of their movies, but I did not get the point of A Serious Man.  I felt like there was this private joke going on throughout the film that I just didn’t get; I felt like an outcast as an audience member.  I have seen many films set in other time periods, such as this one that is set in 1970 and I have never before felt this way.  The film revolves around the character of  Larry Gopnik ( Michael Stuhlbarg), “a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, who has just been informed by his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous acquaintances, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larry’s unemployable brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job.” (http://filminfocus.com/focusfeatures/film/a_serious_man/synopsis).  Larry is a pathetic character who fantasizes about standing up for himself, but in reality never does.  After a while, I stopped feeling sorry for him because he wasn’t doing anything proactive.  Granted all of the people around him were causing the problems, but it began to grate on my nerves.  I heard that this film was supposed to be an ode of sort to Joel and Ethan’s father, so maybe for that reason it was worth making.  I can’t really see any other reason.  2 and a half monkeys out of 5.

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The Young Victoria (2009)

If you are a romantic at heart and you like historical dramas about England, the film The Young Victoria is one that you will enjoy. Victoria was Queen of England from 1837 until 1876 (63 years), the longest reign of any monarch in England’s history, so of course there are many books and films written and made about her.  She became queen at a very young age (18 years old) and this particular film focuses on the year prior to her reign and on into the first few years of “queendom”.  The film doesn’t delve too deeply into the politics of the day, but instead chooses to focus on Victoria’s struggle for independence, but also her need for companionship and guidance.  At its heart, it is a love story between a powerful woman and the one man that she could be herself with.  It is a story of partnership, which is something that every good marriage is, even those that don’t involve ruling a country.

Emily Blunt is radiant as Victoria, a truly good choice to portray the woman in her days of youth and romance.  Rupert Friend as Prince Albert was charming and awkward in that British way that so many of us American girls love.  It was quite interesting to see the relationship between Victoria and Albert unfold, first as a potential arrangement (he had his duty to the King of Belgium, she was pressed to marry before her coronation), next as a deep friendship and then as a young love and eventual partnership.  From what I have read, few films about Victoria’s life have focused on the early years, so I believe that this was a nice addition to the films such as Mrs. Brown.  It will not change your life, but you will go away feeling good about at least one marriage in this world.  4 out of 5 monkeys

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An Education (2009)

I have seen many films in my time about the British and their culture, but very few of them have focused on the time period and on the subject that the film An Education did.  The film tells the story of Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a British suburban teen growing up in the suburbs of London in the 1960’s.  The film establishes that Jenny is a clever girl right off the bat, she likes to read and does well in school, but she also has a rebellious side to her (shown through her love of French music, smoking, etc.) and a want for adventure.  In walks a mysterious older man, David (Peter Sarsgaard), who seems able to give a bored suburban girl everything she wants, music, art, dancing, etc.

The film fascinated me because it would so easily glide between Jenny as a young school girl and Jenny as a woman.  At times she would look innocent. the typical fresh-faced school girl, yet when she dressed up (with her hair up in a silly 60’s hairdo), she had such an Audrey Hepburnesque quality about her that I would forget her age.  And David was so charming with both her and her parents (the subplot with the parents is a film within itself) that it seems all a bit to good to be true.  I think many young girls can relate to Jenny’s struggle, even if they didn’t have an older man chasing them.  Being bored with the life that most people would be willing to accept and wanting someone to take you out of it, even if it meant going against what you were taught.   I also enjoyed  how intelligent Jenny really was and that the film was not afraid to show this.  It would show this is clever ways by contrasting her with characters such as Helen, who were clearly not.  I would love to comment some more on the film, but I don’t want to give anything away, so see it for yourself.  4 out of 5 monkeys

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I have wanted to have a guest blogger for a while now, so after viewing the movie Nine on Saturday evening, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to bring Jeffrey on board.  Enjoy!

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Funny People (2009)

Being a person who is married to a former wanna-be comedian who worked with the likes of Bobcat Goldthwait and unfortunately Dave Coulier, I felt that the film Funny People was spot on in the truth department.  Comedians, especially male ones are basically juvenile maniacs and this film wasn’t afraid to comment on it.  The story centers around the life of George Harris, a successful comedian (played by Adam Sandler) who finds out that he has a terminal disease and therefore must face up to the choices that he has made in his life.  The character of George seems to be very much like Sandler himself, shown through actual footage of Sandler doing prank phone calls back in his youth, etc.  After bombing at a comedy club, George hires a young comedian by the name of Ira Wright (played by Seth Rogen) to be his personal assistant and joke writer.  Through their relationship we get to see the ups and downs of being a comedian and the process that they go through to be portrayed as funny by society.  The film is often straightforward and truthful, especially in its analysis of comedians being mainly insecure guys who spend their whole lives trying to be funny in order to be accepted (or in some cases as George states in the film, to avoid being abused).

It seems that many audience members went into this film thinking that it would be a mash-up of Sandler and Apatow raunchy humor, but instead the comedians chose to tell a more truthful story, a dark comedy or even a ‘gasp’ drama.  It was a very mature film for these men, an ode to their profession.  So, if you like comedy, but are also not afraid to admit occasionally that you are an adult, then you should watch this film.  And for those fans of juvenile humor, there are still plenty of ball jokes to go around.  4 out of 5 monkeys. 

I couldn’t help but post the picture of the Jewish Superman t-shirt.  Awesome.

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The State

TheState#2

The State is a group of ten artists who have created comedy together in various media forms since 1988.  Many of you will recognize them from their sketch comedy show that aired on MTV in 1994 called simply The State.  Clearly influenced by Monty Python (just look at the flow between sketches), the State was sketch comedy for a new generation.  Bizarre and over-the-top, The State will keep your attention and often have you asking, “what the heck just happened?!”, not allowing you to look away. This type of sketch comedy focuses on issues that people can relate too:  who hasn’t met that guy that says the same catch phrase over and over again?  We all know what are hormones feel like, but when have we ever seen them displayed with such abandon by men dressed in full body blue and pink sweat-suites?

Modern-day comedy audiences will recognize member of the state from such comedy central shows as Reno 911! and Stella, as well as the new series Michael and Michael Have Issues. My favorite collaboration other than the show is Wet Hot American Summer, again dealing with characters and themes that most of us can relate too, summer camp and the idiots you have to deal with when you attend.  If you are fan of any of these collaborations, give The State a try.  Now available on DVD!  4 out of 5 monkeys

TheState#1


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